To start out in this one, things certainly weren’t headed towards that narrative. The Cavaliers seemed to have the aggressive foot early, able to seize control of the Hornets lack of paint defense in the first quarter.
Before I go any further, I want to showcase the key players on the Cavs in this game. Jordan Clarkson became the commander of the offense for most of this one and showed his ability as a score-first point guard. He lead the team with 20 points, as he continues to develop his game in the association.
Another player worth mentioning is Jaron Blossomgame, who put on the best performance of his career by far as a pro. He ended the game with 15 points off a tremendous six of seven shooting. Hopefully, this performance becomes the start of a career-defining stint for the former Clemson Tigers forward.
Now, back to the recap.
Despite playing the previous night, the Cavaliers were on a tear early. Being consistent on both ends of the ball, the team surprisingly gained momentum of the lead throughout the first quarter, finishing the period up 25-16.
That sixteen points scored by the Hornets was the lowest scoring quarter of the season. Point guard Kemba Walker struggled mildly to begin the ballgame, missing on his first seven shots. With an already criticized performances recently, it looked like it would be another one of those out-of-it nights for the captain.
But, his resurgence on the offensive end was able to rally the team in a big way.
Walker scored nine points in the second quarter, giving a much-needed boost to the relatively slow-paced offense to begin the ballgame. This scoring burst put a new mentality on the side of the Hornets, as you saw the unit as a whole become more focused on both ends of the ball. Jeremy Lamb was another key factor during this stretch, able to run coast-to-coast for easy deuces on the other end. In essence, the Hornets had finally awoken from their three-day off stretch and were finally able to perform at their expected level. Going on an impressive run to end the quarter, the team was able to narrow the lead to five.
From the second half on, the Hornets coaching staff were able to locate areas of weakness for the Cavs, and use that effectively. From having more bodies in the paint to running a tighter flow on offense, these adjustments made at half ended up shaping how the end-all outcome was.
This, of course, was set up by the comeback performance of Walker, who was able to carry that mojo over to the latter stages of the game. He scored an enormous nineteen points in the third, which was a plus not only for his recent cold streak but for the team as a whole. It really goes to show you how impactful Walker is to this team. When he has games like these, shooting the ball at a ridiculous rate, there is an intangible piece that seems to grow with the Hornets team, especially among the starters. They are more willing to shoot on offense, as seen by Marvin Williams’ impressive 18 points off sixty percent shooting from the field. He became the team’s third option behind Lamb and Walker and shined in his conventional catch-and-shoot role.
Having a miserable last two performances, it was optimistic seeing the Hornets coming out strong through all four quarters, a practice that I stated they needed to do in this game.
Now back at .500, this is an opportune time to turn this ship around into a positive direction. Five out of the next six games give the Hornets a strong chance of coming out victorious, with the outlier being the Boston Celtics.
That said, although it was an ugly one, this win has put the shine back into the Hornets and their star player.